Unlike past Sri Lankan leaders who have always blown hot and blown cold on India, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been unambiguous in his stand. He recently said that if the Lankan army captures LTTE supremo V. Prabhakaran, he would hand over the man who plotted the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi to India. Contrast this with the policy followed by the late Premadasa who betrayed Rajiv by arming the LTTE even as the IPKF fought the Tigers in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. This triggered off a chain of events that drew the Indian forces deeper into the Lankan quagmire and eventually cost Rajiv his life.
Mr Rajapaksa’s confidence stems from the fact that his hardline policy has got the LTTE on the run. In recent times, the head of its political wing and its military intelligence chiefs have been taken out by the Lankan army and rumours are rife that Prabhakaran himself may be grievously wounded. While pursuing a tough policy on the LTTE, Mr Rajapaksa has sought to carry other political parties with him. Since Rajiv’s death, India has chosen to maintain a low-profile on the conflict. It has made clear that it wants a credible devolution package which involves all parties. But with the Norwegians no longer in the peace process, India may have no option but to become more involved.
If New Delhi decides on this course, it might help Mr Rajapaksa’s hand and could drive the final nail into the LTTE’s coffin. Mr Rajapaksa has sought blueprints from the other parties on a way out of the conflict and he is expected to soon come to a decision on the road to be taken. Already in its interim report, the All Parties Representative Conference has sought that provincial council elections be held in the east and an interim provincial council be established for the north. The message is loud and clear: Lanka is moving ahead to a future which does not factor in the LTTE. The LTTE now knows that though it tried, it can never get onto the good side of India. The European Union and the United States have proscribed it, making it difficult for funds to flow in from Tamils in these places. Dubbed “the most dangerous terrorist outfit” in the world, it can no longer expect sympathy from any quarter. For both the LTTE and Mr Rajapaksa, this is the endgame.